Dr Shabir Choudhry
Jammu Kashmir National Independence Alliance arranged a lobbying on Jammu and Kashmir dispute in the British Parliament; where lobbyists met individual Members of Parliament, followed by a joint meeting. Around fifteen members of the Alliance representing various political parties were present in the Parliament, together with Ershad Malik who represented sentiments of people of the Valley of Kashmir.
Apart from me, Amjad Yousaf, Shaukat Hussain and Qamar Khalil were there to represent the United Kashmir Peoples National Party. On behalf of the UKPNP, I made the following submission to respective Members of the Parliament:
1. I endorse what Dr Misfer has said about across LOC firing, which result in suffering on both sides of the divide; and issues related to environment. Like him, I also want this firing to stop immediately, because it hurts innocent people on both side of Jammu and Kashmir. It is totally wrong to assume that only people of so called Azad Kashmir suffer as a result of this firing. Despite the propaganda to the contrary, bitter fact is that the Pakistani bombs and bullets also kill our people on the other side of the divide.
2. However, I want to add that during General Musharaf’s time, there was a cease fire on the LOC, which continued for some years; and there was no firing on LOC from any side, and as a result, no suffering on any side of the forced division.
3. This strengthens the view that the firing on the LOC is deliberately started by the Pakistani army, which enables armed militants to infiltrate from the Pakistani side to commit acts of violence on the other side. If we are serious in stopping the LOC firing; and suffering of the people, then we have to tackle the root cause of infiltration. If infiltration stops, the LOC firing should stop too.
4. Issues related to environment are very serious indeed. However, it is sad to note that both China and Pakistan have no interest in these matters. Apart from the existing mega projects in so called Azad and Gilgit Baltistan, China is investing more than 60 billion dollars under the CPEC projects. Tens of thousands of lorries travelling in each direction everyday will surely have enormous effect on the environment of the region. They have not allocated any funds for the problems related to the environment of the region, clearly indicating that it is not their priority.
5. Mr Fabian Hamilton has made a reference to the contribution made by the British Government, especially at the time of earthquake. We appreciate that contribution; however, I want to emphasise that any help given in name of people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan should not be handed over to officials of Islamabad because it ends up somewhere else; and doesn’t reach the needy people. Victims of the earthquake in so called Azad Kashmir, by and large, still live in camps and do not have the facilities they deserve, although tonnes of money was sent for them from Britain and elsewhere.
6. We are British tax payers, and we have contributed to the British economy. We urge the British government and aid donors to work out a mechanism whereby the funds or assistance intended for the people of Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir should be handed over to respective governments of both regions.
7. Pakistan and their supporters exploit the slogan of right of self-determination, which they claim is available to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the UN Resolutions. This is not true. What is available to us under the UN Resolutions on Kashmir is a right of accession to either India or Pakistan. We are not interested in any kind of right of accession. Right of self – determination was truncated on the request of Pakistan. We want united and independent Jammu and Kashmir
8. It must also be noted that it was Pakistan which refused to honour the UN Resolutions; and did not vacate the areas of Jammu and Kashmir under their control. The Resolution of 13 August 1948 clearly demanded that Pakistan must withdraw all their troops, together with all the tribesmen and those Pakistanis who went there for the purpose of fighting. After Pakistan’s complete withdrawal, India was to withdraw a ‘bulk’ of the troops.
9. Pakistan did not withdraw in 1948/9; and there is no way they will withdraw now, especially when China is investing 60 billion dollars on the CPEC which goes through Gilgit Baltistan, a territory part of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.
10. Furthermore, a lot has changed since these Resolutions were passed. Pundits have been forced to leave their homes in the Valley of Kashmir; and Pakistan has discarded State Subject Laws, allowing people of Pakistan to settle in Gilgit Baltistan. This has changed demography of the region. In practise, the UN Resolutions are not implementable. In my opinion, a new mechanism has to be evolved that will of the divided people could ascertained.
11. Human rights abuses take place on both sides of the divide; and we should condemn and oppose all human rights violations and not be selective in this. Some people only want to talk of human rights abuses against Muslims on the Indian side of the divide; and perpetrated by the men in uniform. They don’t want to talk about human rights abuses committed by militants; or talk about plight of the minorities, especially abuses against the Pundit community.
12. It may look personal to some; however, I am also a victim of Pakistani policies in Azad Kashmir. My Identity Card which is fundamental to life in Pakistan and in areas of Jammu and Kashmir under their control, was not renewed. I could not travel with dead body of my father who died in Luton in August 2015. Denial of the ID card means denial of my fundamental rights. I cannot visit my home in Azad Kashmir. My following rights are effected:
· Right to travel;
· Right to meet my friends and relatives;
· My bank accounts are frozen – it means denial of my right to bank;
· My right to buy or sell property, without the ID card one cannot buy or sell any property;
· I cannot stay at any hotel, as ID card is required for that purpose;
· I cannot publish any books in Azad Kashmir because Pakistan government has put ban on my books, hence no right of expression;
· I cannot hold any public meeting – denial of a right to assemble and express my political views.
Apart from me, many other people in so called Azad Kashmir are suffering due to the oppressive policies of Pakistan; and sadly, we are not even allowed to complain about the problems we encounter due to their wrong policies.
Jammu and Kashmir Diaspora has an important role to play in our quest for independence; and I expect the JKNIA to take initiative in their own hand, and bravely counter designs of those who are enemies of peace and our independence.
Other people who spoke in the meeting include Dr Misfer Hussain, Sajjad Raja, Councillor Ghulam Hussain, Ershad Malik and Rizwan Siddique. Other people who made to the lobbying include Abbas Butt, Zafar Hussain, Zohaib Hasrat, Sahim Manzoor, Mohammed Azeem and Zaheer Sahib.
Writer is a renowned writer and author of many books. He is also a senior leader of UKPNP and Chairman South Asia Watch, London.
Email: Drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com Twitter: @Drshabir